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Full text of "Mathura A District Memoir"

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caste is ordinarily regarded as an institution mi generis, which
must be accepted as a potent social influence, but cannot be explained either by
parallel facts in other countries or by an enquiry into its own development,
since that is buried in the depth of pre-historic antiquity. Such an opinion is
not altogether well-founded, for—whatever may be thought as to the similarity
between the restrictions imposed by caste in India and by other artificial
contrivances in Europe—it is certain that though the broadly-marked separa-
tion of the Brahman from the Thakur dates from an extremely remote period,
the formation of subordinate castes is a process which continues in full opera-
tion to the present day and admits of direct observation in all its stages. The
course of Indian tradition is to all appearance unbroken, and until some breach
of continuity is clearly proved, the modern practice must be acknowledged
as the legitimate development of the primary idea.
It is nothing strange that the Hindus themselves should fail to give any
reasonable explanation of the matter ; since not only are they restricted by
religious dogma, but every society is naturally as blind to the phenomena of
its own existence as the individual man is unconscious of Ms daily physical
growth. On the other hand, European outsiders, who might be expected to
record simple facts with the accuracy of impartial observers, are misled by the
prejudices which they have inherited from the early investigators of Oriental
The Code of Manu was among the first, if not the very first Sanskrit
didactic work of any importance made known to the world at large through the
medium of a translation. At that time it was unhesitatingly accepted as the
ultimate authority on all the subjects of which it treated, and hence the fourfold
division of Hindu society into Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra was uni-
versally recognized as an absolute fact. The later discovery of tne Yedas, and
the vast reach of antiquity which opened out upon their interpretation, mtide
the Manava Dharma Sastra appear a comparatively modern production. The
explanations, which it gives of phenomena dating back in their origin to the
remotest past, can only be regarded as theories, not as positive verities; while,
again, the vast range of later Sanskrit literature, which has now become avail-
able to the student, affords a test of its accuracy in the descriptions whicMt gives